The Death of bin Laden
I know this is a bit slow and isn’t current news anymore, but still, I’ve heard it come up within the past couple days so I still would like to make a quick comment. More specifically, I’m not too concerned about expressing my own reaction to the death of bin Laden as to pondering the reaction of everyone else. Is there a right Christian response? Should we be celebrating because the world is potentially safer? Two main points of discussion in my mind: is violence ever right, and is what’s right for the Christian the same as what’s right for the state?
Celebration of Violence
This is what scared me in seeing the reactions. Murder was the cause for huge spontaneous celebration. The instinct may be that terrorism has been severely wounded, but I have to honestly ask whether it is stronger and just in a different location. Violence begets violence. Bin Laden and those under him killed a lot of people. They celebrated. The armies of various nations killed a lot of people including him in response. Then they celebrated. So what’s the difference between the two? Which nation is celebrating. The paradigm of violence hasn’t changed, and I’d argue is actually more widespread (at least in the Western world) than it was 11 years ago. To me, if the goal of terrorism is to create terror, by celebrating death we have celebrated the victory of terrorism. With other Anabaptists, I believe that violence cannot be stopped by more violence – that we are called to something higher than retributive justice. Violence must be stopped by pacifying (not being passive) the situation, through nonviolence.
With that said, saying that Christians should mourn violence is not the same as saying that the state shouldn’t have carried out justice. The state did what it had to do based on its priorities of justice and protection of its people. That is the state’s job, and is even attested to in Scripture just as much as the church’s job to be practicing nonviolence is in Scripture. So I accept the death as a just action of the state, yet I still discourage Christians from having any part in it – whether being in the Army, the government that sends the Army, or being in the streets celebrating.